To The Victoria Falls
Development of the Victoria Falls
British Royal Family visit, 1947
In 1947 Rhodesia was visited by King George VI, Queen Elizabeth (the late Queen Mother) and the two Princesses, Elizabeth (the present Queen Elizabeth II) and the late Princess Margaret, as part of the Royal Tour of the Union of South Africa during February-April 1947. It was the first overseas state visit since 1939 and the outbreak of World War II, and celebrated with much pomp and ceremony. The young Princess Elizabeth also celebrated her 21st birthday during the tour, with a radio message recorded in Cape Town, and which was celebrated by two grand balls, one in the City Hall and another at Government House. She also made her first solo public appearance at the opening of new docks in East London.
External Link: Pathe News Report - The Royal Tour at the Victoria Falls.
For their extensive tour South African Railways again provided a newly built 'White Train', which was made available for the Rhodesian section of the tour. The Garratt locomotives were painted royal blue. Extensive plans were made for the smooth running of the tour, from re-stocking and water, to post, radio and telegraph facilities, laundry and other matters.
The Royal Train heading for Victoria Falls behind a 15th Class Garrett. 1947 [From Croxton, 1973]
The Royal Party flew from South Africa to Salisbury, were they travelled, by Royal Train, to Bulawayo. On 10 April the Royal Family passed in the special 'White Train' through various towns and arrived next day at the Victoria Falls, staying at the Victoria Falls Hotel, which was reserved entirely for their use. Preparations had involved a major refurbishment for the occassion. Repeated visits were made to the Falls during the next few days, which took the form of a welcome holiday.
The tour went according to programme, the only unrehearsed incident of note being at Matetsi where, on route to the Falls, the train stopped for water, the Royal party noted a small gathering at the station and decided spontaneously to alight. The stationmaster, Charlie Wise, at once stepped forward respectfully to greet the King and Queen and escorted them to the thrilled group of onlookers. Everywhere crowds had loyally and enthusiastically welcomed the royal visitors and this informal reception made a great impression.
On 11 April 1947, the day dubbed by the Livingstone Mail newspaper as the "most important day in the history of the town", King George VI set foot on the soil of the then British Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia in Livingstone, for an afternoon at least.
The spectacular view of the Victoria Falls, Rhodesia impresses the Royal Family
The royal party steamed its way from the Zimbabwean side on board the launch, Daphne, for the Zambian side and once across, the Lozi state barge, Nalikwanda, which with its flotilla was lurking around at the mouth of the Maramba river, provided the royal escort up the Regatta course to the Zambezi Boat Club, the landing site.
The Nalikwanda continued up stream in display then down stream, in match past fashion, back to the Maramba river, the point of disembarkation.
At the suggestion of the governor Southern Rhodesia, the two governors agreed to name two small islands on the Zambezi. It would appear the Southern Rhodesia government had originally named the two islands after the king and queen unilaterally.
His late Majesty, King George VI expressed a desire to have some of the islands in the Zambesi named after his family; Long Island was renamed King George VI Island, Kalai Island became Queen Elizabeth Island, Siachikola Island became Princess Elizabeth Island, and three unnamed islands were named after Princess Margaret, Princess Helena Victoria and Princess Marie Louise.
His Majesty also renamed Dale’s Kopje, Queen Elizabeth Kopje. This Kopje is situated about six hundred yards in a north-westerly direction from the ‘Big Tree’. It was originally called Dale’s kopje because Andrew Dale, a Native Commissioner, used to camp there in the very early days of the country.
The Council resolved to name the road from Mosi-O-Tunya Road to the Boat Club in Livingstone 'The Royal Mile' (now Sichango Road).
The Royal party occupied a suit in the south 'hammerhead' of the Victoria Falls Hotel, which for many years after was known as the Queen's Suit. It was the same suit that the Princess Royal, then still Princess Anne, spent two nights during her 1983 visit for Save the Children in Zimbabwe.